Day 1 – Start of my Shizuoka Journey
After months of anticipation, I was so excited to arrive at Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport! As I walked towards the arrival hall, this beautiful poster of Mt Fuji was a welcoming sight. Definitely hoping to spot Fuji-san during the trip.
Mt Fuji is located in the north of Shizuoka Prefecture. If you are in the region (especially in the north or east), do look out for Fuji-san. You can check out this Mt Fuji Area (Shizuoka) for places to view Fuji-san within Shizuoka Prefecture.
At the airport, I met up with Ms Yuko Agata, a representative from Shizuoka Prefectural Government. We took the airport bus to JR Shimada Station and from there, the train to JR Shimizu Station. Thank you, Ms Yuko Agata, for the warm welcome at the airport and for accompanying me all the way to JR Shimizu Station!
Ms Yuko Agata & I in JR Shimizu Station
Whenever I visit a country, I will try to visit the local markets. Not only do you get to try the local specialities, you can also be assured of the freshness and quality of the food, especially in Japanese local markets. Sometimes, you may even discover unusual finds. With that, I set off for Kashi-no Ichi Market, which is just 3 minutes away from JR Shimizu Station.
Crab lovers will love it here. Just look at the size of those crabs! They are larger than both my fists combined! ¥1500 is around S$23. Crabs these size and quality can easily cost up to S$150 in Singapore.
There are many shops selling seafood, fresh fruits and local products produced in Shizuoka Prefecture. Furthermore, with its strategic location in Shimizu port, there is an abundance of fresh and cheaper seafood. It is a must visit for a seafood lovers. Unfortunately, as I had to rush off to the next location, I wasn’t able to have a meal here.
Boarding the free shuttle bus from JR Shimizu Station East Exit roundabout, I took a 15 min bus ride to S-Pulse Dream Plaza. S-Pulse Dream Plaza is a relatively smaller local shopping mall in Shimizu, compared to those departmental stores located in major JR stations. If you have a tight schedule, I will recommend visiting other attractions. However, for those with children, I’m sure they will enjoy riding the Ferris wheel, visiting Shimizu Sushi Museum and Chibi Maruko Land.
S-Pulse Dream plaza & Shimizu Port taken from Shimizu Marine Park
After wandering around the Shimizu Marine Park for 15 minutes, I decided to figure my way to the next destination (Miho Beach) and come back to the mall later. The sky was overcast and I didn’t want to be caught in the rain. Taking a cab was my first choice, but someone boarded before I did, so I ended up taking the bus instead.
Taking a bus in Japan in this city is difficult. Only the bus numbers, final destinations and bus timings are listed on the board. How would I know which bus to take? Luckily for me, the bus I boarded travelled to that area and I alighted at the Hagoromo-no-Matsu bus stop.
Following the signs, I hurried to Miho Shrine. The sky was getting darker and gloomier by the minute.
To get to Miho no Matsubara aka Pine Groves of Miho, I had to walk past these gorgeous pine trees. This path is also known as Kami No Michi/God’s Road. I have no idea why it is named so, but I felt at peace walking along the path, as if I was walking towards somewhere sacred.
Kami No Michi An old leaning pine tree
After 10 minutes, I arrived at the place I was looking forward to. Miho no Matsubara was listed as one of “Three Places of Scenic Beauty in Japan” in 1916. With that tag, how can I not be excited? Furthermore, on a good day, you can see Fuji-san!
The view on a good day. Refer to the picture #9
Miho beach and her unique black sand
Alas, no Fuji-san in sight, but the place is still beautiful with the unique black sandy beach and lovely view. If only the weather was better…
Hagoromo no matsu Hagurumu Shrine by the pine tree
The other attraction not to be missed in the area is Hagoromo no matsu. It is the pine tree in a local legend, where a celestial maiden placed her feathery robe on. It is believed to be around 650 years old. Unfortunately, the sky was dark and gloomy. It started to drizzle and I had to leave the area.
Back in S-Pulse Dream Plaza, I explored the mall. Spotted the kawaii Chibi Maruko Land, but I didn’t enter the attraction. This will surely appeal to fans of Chibi Maruko-chan.
I was starving by then and decided to enter a random shop in Shimizu Sushi Court. I chose a sushi / udon set with fried sakura ebi and it came looking exactly like the picture! The sushi was fresh and the fried sakura ebi cake was crunchy, but not oily. The complimentary honeydew was very sweet! Oishii!
In Shimizu Sushi Court My dinner for day 1
Other than the weather, day 1 ended on a satisfying note. Definitely hoping for better weather for the rest of the trip.
Day 2 – Steam locomotive, suspension bridge and a ryokan stay
Guess who I saw in the morning! I spotted the beautiful snow-capped Fuji-san!!!
I saw Fuji-san in Shimizu station, where I had to board the train to Kanaya Station. Due to the weather, I wasn’t able to see Fuji-san at Miho no Matsubara. I thought that I wouldn’t get the chance again during this trip, so seeing Fuji-san in the morning was a pleasant surprise.
This was theOigawa local train I took to Shin-Kanaya Station, where I changed to the steam locomotive. Doesn’t it give off retro vibes with the orange velvet seats?
While waiting for the steam locomotive in Shin-Kanaya area, you can spend some time in Plaza Loco. Explore the steam locomotive museum and souvenir shop within.
Different Oigawa trains Replica of the old train station
This museum seems popular with the locals. I saw some pre-schoolers on a school trip. They were so adorable in their pink caps!
Just 2 minutes away from Plaza Loco, there is this stunning life sized steam locomotive model, where you can take pictures with. Behind the model, there was a steam locomotive preparing for its next journey. Steam engine fans will enjoy exploring this location.
When you come to Japan, you must try their ice creams. They just taste better, creamier and simply different. I bought wasabi ice cream from a stall in Shin-Kanaya Station. So yummy! I expected it to be very spicy, but it turned out to be sweet, with a spicy after taste. If you lick too fast, it gets spicier and you get that all familiar wasabi kick.
Finally, it was boarding time. I heard the steam locomotive before I saw the train. Isn’t she a rustic beauty? Everyone kept taking pictures with the train before it moved. The comfortable ambience and the décor in the train reminded me of time long past.
Aged décor that has seen better days
You could sense the excitement in the air when the train started to move. A cheery country tune started playing and the train conductor welcomed everyone on board through the train announcement system.
With time, fellow passengers started to tuck into their train bento set or ekiben. I got mine at Plaza Loco. Visually appealing and as tasty as it appeared, it was my lunch for the ride to Senzu Station. Do try Shizuoka green tea if you have the chance to do so. The taste of green tea, even in a can, was really refreshing.
Unknowingly, I leaned back, relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful view of Oigawa tea fields as the train travels along the Oigawa River. I was also entertained by the train conductor playing her harmonica, when she walked through the carriages.
Apparently, the steam locomotive is very popular with the locals and enthusiasts. There is only one round trip each day, so it is usually packed on weekends. You will have to reserve earlier for weekend rides.
After a 90 minutes ride, I arrived at Senzu station. Within 15 minutes, I boarded a bus to Sumatakyo Onsen, or I would have to wait for another hour. Maybe this area (Kanaya to Sumatakyo) has fewer tourists, but the time intervals between trains and buses are around 1 hour. In order not to spend too much time waiting, planning ahead is necessary.
Bus to Sumatakyo Onsen View from the bus The windy path up to Sumatakyo
My accommodation in Sumatakyo was Okuoi Kanko Hotel Suikoen. It is supposedly one of the best ryokans in Shizuoka Prefecture. I had no problem finding my way around, as some of the staffs could understand and speak English.
I stayed in this warm and cozy Japanese styled room. There was an incense burner filled with green tea grown in Kawane and the sweet soothing aroma scented the whole room.
Since there was some time before dinner at 6pm, I decided to leave the ryokan and hike to Sumata Gorge. Along the way, I walked through Sumatakyo town, passing shops and cafes selling local produce.
The path through town to Sumata Gorge Mountain goats are common in the area
Sumata Gorge is a great place to hike! The cooling made the hike more doable than in summer. The hike took me to the lovely Yume no Tsuribashi Suspension Bridge, also known as the Dreamy Suspension Bridge. I love this charming area with the suspension bridge above the emerald river water. It is perfect for couples. So dreamlike and romantic!
Continuing the hike upwards, I headed towards Osakizaka Observatory. Too bad, it isn’t autumn yet, or the view of the gorge will be magnificent.
Part of the dam can be seen Osakizaka Observatory
Located just beside the observatory, you will notice this rundown train model. I think it used to be part of a logging railroad train.
As I walked back towards town, this is another bridge, Hiryu Bridge, along the way. If I live here, with the healthier local food and daily hike, I’m sure I will live longer.
There was a paper lantern exhibition in town, but due to the weather, it was cancelled that evening. The shopkeepers were placing the lanterns along the road before the event was cancelled. The numerous cute lanterns along the road added to the charms of this quaint little town.
Sumatakyo Onsen has the tagline “The hot spring that creates beauty”. Since I was in the area, I had to try the onsen. Back in the ryokan, I went to the outdoor onsen. The water felt slimy, but my skin was so smooth after the bath. It was so relieving to my aching feet!
And then, it was dinner time in the ryokan. I had a traditional Japanese styled barbequed pork set that included many seasonal local vegetables. There were so many appetisers and dishes that I couldn’t figure out the order I had to take them.
Japanese Styled BBQ Pork (Before & after)
Seasoned vegetables & grilled yamame
Crunchy vegetable tempura and a slimy cold dish
Japanese rice is delicious
Some dishes, local vegetables, the fish and the seasoned pork, were very fresh and delicious. Some, I couldn’t figure out what they were. In all, it was a very filling and unique experience.
Day 3 – Hamamatsu City, the City of Music
I felt a little sad leaving Sumatakyo Onsen town. I love this town, with its rustic and tranquil environment. The people are friendly, the scenery is wonderful and when you are here, you will be relieved of the hectic city lifestyle. It is a lovely place to rejuvenate tired minds and bodies.
Since I was trying to get to Hamamatsu City as quickly as possible, I took the electric train back to Kanaya Station. The train ride was so comfortable; I fell asleep for the entire ride. After which, I took a JR train to Hamamatsu City.
In Hamamatsu City, the first building I noticed is Act Tower. It is supposed to look like a harmonica. Does it remind you of one? It is the tallest building in the city and I used it to orientate myself in the city. To get a good view of the city, the observation gallery on the 45th floor is the place to go.
To get to the observation gallery, I had to take an elevator in Okura Act City Hotel to the 45th floor. It cost me ¥500, but I got a bird eye view of Hamamatsu City from the top. Even though it was hazy, I managed to see the ocean, Lake Hamana and some hills. If the weather is clear, you can view Mt Fuji too.
Hamamatsu City is known as the City of Music, so it makes sense that it has a museum on musical instruments. Located across Act tower, Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments can be found in Act City.
This museum contains hundreds of instruments from around the world. There are many interesting looking folk instruments from Asia and Africa on display. It was exciting to see many instruments that I have not seen before.
Besides looking at the instruments, the fun part is listening to the distinctly different sounds of the musical instruments using the headsets provided.
My favourite section has to be the large room on the 1st floor for pianos, harpsichords, etc. From an 18th century harpsichord to a modern elegant piano, this room contains many gorgeous instruments. Just look at the beautiful designs! Happy sigh.
When you get bored of looking at instruments, go to play room and you can try out a variety of musical instruments. Channelling my inner drummer, I tried the drum set and caused a disturbance, judging from the grimaces. Oh well, at least I had fun.
Occasionally, the museum has music events and there happened to be one that day. There were many enchanting music performances from different cultures. Watching one performance after another, unknowingly, I had already spent 3 hours in the museum and it was time to go to the next attraction.
Javanese Music Performance Thai music performance
My next destination was Zaza City, one of the more popular shopping malls in the city. It consists of two buildings, Zaza West & Zaza Central. In Zaza West, there are a few levels dedicated to the latest Japanese fashion. I spotted some shops catering to fans of visual kei bands too. Some of the more popular shops in Zaza City are Uniqlo, Children’s Plaza and ToysRus.
As I walked around in Zaza city, this charming shop with its colourful exterior caught my eye.
Turned out that it sells old school Japanese candies and toys! No wonder, there were so many teenagers outside the shop. In the end, I couldn’t resist and got some appealing candies for souvenirs.
There are many food streets nearby, just 10 minutes away from Hamamatsu station. You can identify them once you step out of Zaza mall. There are many popular restaurants in the area. You can tell just by looking for shops with long queues.
A popular Gyoza Restaurant in the area. Comments left by satisfied customers
Exploring the area, I came across the usual amusement arcades and some other interesting establishments too. Apparently, there is a “red light” district in the area. I wanted to take pictures, but was frighten to do so. Too many “bouncers” standing guard.
If you happen to be in the area, do check out the streets. It can be rather amusing and exciting.
Day 4 – Last Day of my Trip
All too soon, it was already day 4 and the trip was coming to an end. I wanted to visit as many places as possible, and decided, on a whim, to go to nearby attractions within the city area.
I spent the morning discovering Hamamatsu Castle and the surrounding castle park. 15 minutes away from Zaza City, Hamamatsu castle is a small reconstructed castle. Tokugawa Ieyasu, first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, stayed here for 17 years. There is a statue of him near the castle.
Hamamatsu Castle Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Statue
It contains the usual armours, clothes and weapons from this period. It has an observation deck too, but I very much prefer the view from Act Tower. What I liked was this getups corner, where I enjoyed trying on the head gears and holding “samurai swords”. Just in this small corner, I spent 10 minutes posing and taking pictures.
I think the castle park is usually a place for the locals and families to bond, exercise and relax. I heard from a local that in spring, this will be a great place to view cherry blossoms. People will have picnics under the trees and admire the flowers.
A father-son bonding session An elderly man feeding squirrels
A couple taking wedding photos in the park.
After hearing good reviews for this restaurant, I decided to have lunch at Atsumi. It is a traditional Japanese unagi restaurant that is well known among the locals. For this shop to last 100 years, it must be doing something right. Look, there was a queue even before it opens for lunch.
I chose the Kabayaki style Unagi set. The eels are dipped into “tare/sauce”, and then grilled over charcoal. For someone who doesn’t usually eat bony fishes, I finished the whole bento. The unagi was delicious! The sauce was just right and it didn’t overwhelm the taste of the unagi. The meal was expensive (~S$50), but it was money well-spent!
After my hearty meal, I walked to Hamamatsu Science Museum. It helped to aid digestion, as I was so full.
The museum has a range of interactive exhibits, based on the following themes: nature, space, sound, light, and electricity. Furthermore, there is a planetarium on the third floor. It is popular with families. I spotted many children when I was there.
It is useful that there is English information for most exhibits. The different sections have many interesting exhibits, where you can have fun trying, while understanding the science behind it.
Skipping the planetarium, since the show is in Japanese, I left for Hamamatsu Station to travel to Bentenjima Station. Alighting at the station left me at the south of Lake Hamana. There are many attractions nearby, but the attractions not to be missed are Bentenjima beach and the torii gate nearby.
Statue of Kanon in the area
The beach is a popular spot in summer. Besides the huge fireworks display in July, you can go digging for clams, take boat rides or just enjoy the sea breeze. Unfortunately, it is October. The weather is colder and I couldn’t do those activities.
However, going to the beach was still a brilliant idea because I got to see this!
This view of the sun setting between Bentenjima torii gate is unforgettably breathtaking! Looking at the number of people around taking photos or relaxing on the beach, it seems many people love the view too! I highly recommend Bentenjima beach to view the sunset!
After this, I went to May One and Entetsu Department Store in Hamamatsu Station to do some last minute shopping, before heading back to the hotel to prepare for my trip home the next morning. There are a few shops selling local products for souvenirs. Do get some buttery eel pies. They are biscuits, which contain powdered eel bones, and make great snacks.
To be honest, before the trip, I have not heard of this area. Only after doing my research for this trip, did I realise that there are many attractions that are comparable with those in popular cities, such as Tokyo & Kyoto. The attractions aren’t as crowded and sometimes, you get to enjoy the scenic views all alone.
I have also learnt that Shizuoka is a major producer of green tea, mikan and wasabi in Japan. There is no better place to try and get these foods within Japan.
The trip has been really enriching and enjoyable! I got to see Fuji-san, interact with friendly locals, try fresh food produced in Shizuoka and go to places I wouldn’t have gone to without this opportunity. Furthermore, it is less crowded I will definitely come back to Shizuoka Prefecture again to visit the places I skipped this trip. For those who have not been here before, you won’t regret coming to the area!
Thank you, JETRO Singapore, FLP Singapore & Shizuoka Prefectural Government for the opportunity given and support provided!